Soccer: Fernandez named Israel coach

"It will be a great challenge to get Israel to the European Championships," says former Betar boss.

Luis Fernandez 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Luis Fernandez 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Luis Fernandez said he is confident he can guide Israel to Euro 2012 after being introduced as the new national team coach on Sunday evening.
After a five-month search and a two-hour meeting at Israel Football Association headquarters in Ramat Gan, IFA chairman Avi Luzon decided he had found the foreign coach he had promised to sign following Dror Kashtan’s failure and agreed personal terms with the 50-year-old Frenchman.
Fernandez, who coached Betar Jerusalem in the 2005/06 season, will officially take charge in May but was handed a contract only until the end of Israel’s qualifying campaign in November 2011.
“Guiding Israel to the European Championships is a big challenge, but I think the national team can do it,” said Fernandez, who will earn approximately 40,000 euros a month.
“Israel has many talented players and Israeli soccer has shown significant improvement in recent years.
“I know we are facing a difficult mission, but I’m sure that if there will be mutual respect between the players and the coaching staff we can succeed.”
Luzon claimed Fernandez was the best candidate for the national team, but hinted that had the IFA been able to spend more money it may have signed another coach.
“I wanted a foreign coach that met both our professional demands and financial constraints,” said Luzon, who had dreamed of bringing in the very expensive likes of Roberto Donadoni, Jurgen Klinsmann and Frank Rijkaard. “We have excellent chemistry with Fernandez and I believe in him and trust him.”
Fernandez’s biggest advantage over any other foreign coach is his knowledge of Israeli soccer and his experience working with local players.
In November 2005, Fernandez was signed as Betar coach by Arkadi Gaydamak, but after a largely impressive and eventful seven months he quit the club.
“I know all about the Israeli league and I will watch it closely when I begin my tenure,” said Fernandez, whose first matches at the helm will be the friendlies against Chile on May 26 and Uruguay four days later.
“Israel’s players are always improving and now we need to take the extra step and qualify for a major tournament.”
Fernandez was one of the stars of the superb French national team in the 1980s, helping it to the Euro 84 title and also playing a role in the team which reached the semifinals of the World Cup in 1986.
His coaching career also got off to a successful start, winning the European Cup Winners Cup with Paris Saint-Germain in 1996 and guiding Spain’s Athletic Bilbao to the Champions League two years later.
However, in recent seasons his career floundered, with his short stint at Betar being followed by brief tenures at Spain’s Real Betis and Stade de Reims of the French second division, the last coaching position he held before being replaced last June.
“Fernandez has experienced the mentality of the Israeli player and he knows plenty about Israeli soccer,” Luzon said.
“I’m certain we will have an interesting campaign and that we will smile all the way to the European Championships”
Former Hapoel Beersheba coach Guy Azuri, who worked as assistant coach with Fernandez at Betar, praised Luzon’s decision.
“He is an interesting man, a soccer man,” Azuri said. “He willencourage fast, intensive soccer. I am sure he will be a good coach forthe national team.”